Air Cooled Chiller Superheat Maintenance

Vacuum pump and green compressor during air cooled chiller superheat maintenance

Air Cooled Chiller Superheat Maintenance

Air cooled chiller superheat maintenance at Maximus Chillers. During the visit, we found a high superheat condition with an Italian chiller. The customer had reported a low refrigerant charge trip out. The customer raised the order, so we got straight to work on the leak during the maintenance visit.

Pressure Temperature Relationship

Put simply, the higher the pressure, the higher the temperature of the refrigerant- this is consistent with Charles’s Law of Constant Volume. The refrigerant was found to be at a higher temperature above saturation (or boiling point) than usual- which is a high superheat condition. The chiller runs on R134a, which is a HFC refrigerant.

Air Cooled Chiller Superheat Maintenance with Leak Finding

Our engineer used his leak identification equipment to find the leak. After looking around the chiller he found the leak adjacent to the shell and tube evaporator, where 4 bolts hold the suction pipe on. This coupling is sealed with a gasket.

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Chiller Pump Down

Because of the location of the leak, our engineer decided to pump the chiller down to the condenser and valve the evaporator off. A lot less time consuming than setting up the recovery unit to decant the refrigerant.

Air Cooled Chiller Superheat Maintenance with Leak Repairs

He used his Allen key set to remove the suction pipe from the evaporator. On inspection, the paper gasket had deteriorated then been pushed out by the pressure in the system. All of our engineers carry an extensive range of commonly used parts and materials as standard in their cars. This is to reduce down time for the customer. He made up a new paper gasket, coated it with a special sealing compound, then re fitted the suction pipe to the evaporator. He then used his torque wrench on the Allen key bolts to the correct manufacturer’s recommendations. The system was then pressure tested and dehydrated as per standard industry guidelines.

Screw Compressor

The superheat value at the Bitzer screw compressor was found to be within normal operating values after additional refrigerant was added to the system. A further follow up leak test was carried out at a later date according to F-gas regulations. The paperwork being kept in the F-gas file in the chief engineer’s office.

To read more about air cooled chiller maintenance click the Tag at the top of the page.

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Frost covered blue oil return vessel during the removal of industrial refrigeration sludge

Industrial Refrigeration Sludge

This industrial refrigeration visit is to remove sludge from the system. There had been a long period of neglect prior to Maximus Chillers attending site, so regular oil changes had not been carried out. Two oil changes have now been carried out and still a small amount of sludge still remains in the system.

Industrial Refrigeration Sludge Removal

Due to previous industrial refrigeration sludge removal, the plant was down to about half of its 60kg charge of refrigerant. It was starting to show signs of refrigerant shortage as the machine was preventing loading up. An ammonia suitable pump out unit was used to decant the remaining refrigerant into a cylinder for disposal.

Pressure and Temperature

Once this had been carried out, any residual refrigerant in the oil and liquid on the low side of the plant was carefully handled until the plant was at the same pressure and temperature of the surrounding environment. See picture of some remaining liquid boiling off in an oil return vessel on the bottom of the flooded evaporator.

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Industrial Refrigeration Sludge Oil

Once the pressure and temperatures equalized, our engineer drained the oil in the system from four different vessels. The oil was then removed from site for recycling. Usually, pressure helps with the process, but as the system was empty, gravity was sufficient for most parts of the plant. Nitrogen being introduced to the oil supply pipe to push it back to the oil separator.

Flushing Agent

A flushing agent specially formulated for use in ammonia systems was used to aid the removal of sludge and oil from the pipework around the chiller.


After a pressure test, the evacuation process was started. This was to boil off any remaining flushing agent, to remove non condensables and remove any moisture. A near perfect vacuum was achieved.

Run up

New refrigeration grade anhydrous ammonia was charged into the system, a little at first to check for any leaks. Then, the plant was checked for effective running conditions. All readings were okay with the compressor loading up to 100% before backing off to match the load.

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Read more about oil analysis and testing at the Institute of Refrigeration | Click Here